Trump’s Babysitters Can’t Rein In His Erratic Behavior
August 11, 2017
Trump’s aides, his generals, and Congressional Republicans have all tried to reign in the President’s erratic, reckless, and dangerous behavior. Despite his baby sitters’ best efforts, they have not been able to temper our temperamental president. Trump is the same as he has always been. And as we saw this week, when you put Trump in a pen and think he’s under control, he acts out, with severe ramifications.
Trump’s aides had to talk him down and walk back his spontaneous North Korea comments.
Washington Post: “On Tuesday, Trump vowed in spontaneous remarks not vetted by aides that Pyongyang would be met with unprecedented ‘fire and fury’ if it did not stop its threats — a pledge that some outside the White House interpreted as an allusion to nuclear war… Trump aides sought to tamp down talk of war, saying the president was intent on delivering a stern message ‘in terms Kim Jong Un would understand,’ according to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.”
CNN: “US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has sought to allay fears of a military confrontation with North Korea after President Donald Trump warned he could unleash ‘fire and fury’ on the pariah state. Tillerson defended Trump’s comments but said there was no sign that the threat level from North Korea had changed and that Americans should ‘sleep well at night.’ His unscheduled remarks, on a flight out of the region early Wednesday, appeared designed to dial back the unprecedented rhetoric from Trump.”
But Trump doubled-down, saying his “fire and fury” threat “wasn’t tough enough.”
TRUMP: “Frankly, the people who were questioning that statement, was it too tough? Maybe it wasn’t tough enough. They’ve been doing this to our country for a long time, for many years, and it’s about time that somebody stuck up for the people of this country and for the people of other countries. So if anything, maybe that statement wasn’t tough enough.” [Trump Remarks After National Security Briefing, Bedminster NJ, 8/10/17]
The generals in Trump’s administration viewed it as their duty to keep tabs on Trump.
Axios: “The generals — White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — speak frequently, see the world similarly and privately express a sense of duty to help steer Trump. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, is an ally.”
Associated Press: “Mattis and Kelly also agreed in the earliest weeks of Trump’s presidency that one of them should remain in the United States at all times to keep tabs on the orders rapidly emerging from the White House, according to a person familiar with the discussions. The official insisted on anonymity in order to discuss the administration’s internal dynamics.”
Despite their best efforts, the generals have done little to curb Trump’s worst instincts.
New York Times: “At the beginning of the administration, most Democrats (myself included), and even a few Republicans, publicly hoped that a cadre of generals and former generals — Mr. Mattis, John Kelly at Homeland Security, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster at the National Security Council (who replaced retired Gen. Michael Flynn, a Trump loyalist) — would check Mr. Trump’s worse instincts… But six months later, it seems that hope was misplaced. The generals have done little to curb Mr. Trump, let alone give some shape to a dangerously incoherent foreign policy.”
Politico: “President Donald Trump’s White House and Defense Department lawyers had warned him against the transgender military ban for days. They were concerned about the ramifications of the policy, how military officials would respond and what legal backlash it could cause, two West Wing officials familiar with last month’s discussions said. The lawyers thought there would be plenty of time for more discussions and were analyzing arguments.”
Politico: “What’s not is that the president also disappointed—and surprised—his own top national security officials by failing to include the language reaffirming the so-called Article 5 provision in his speech. National security adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson all supported Trump doing so and had worked in the weeks leading up to the trip to make sure it was included in the speech, according to five sources familiar with the episode. They thought it was, and a White House aide even told The New York Times the day before the line was definitely included.”
Chief of Staff Kelly tried to get oversight of Trump’s twitter account to limit his spontaneous tweets – clearly that did not work.
Washington Examiner: “But while the president has offered Kelly a level of control Priebus never managed to obtain, Trump has resisted giving his new chief of staff veto power over the spontaneous and provocative tweets that often serve as a distraction for his administration. A series of news reports suggesting Kelly had sought oversight of Trump’s Twitter account, including a report that claimed Kelly wanted to know in advance what the president planned to post, made their way to Trump’s desk last week, a person familiar with the situation told the Washington Examiner.”
Washington Examiner: “But while Kelly controls more of the inputs that reach Trump, he is less in control of Trump’s Twitter output… The Twitter rampage stoked speculation that Kelly has not yet consolidated control of Trump’s social media habits, even as he gains greater authority over other aspects of the White House’s operation.”
Trump’s aides tried to control what news he saw.
Washington Examiner: “Kelly has had luck in other areas. Trump’s ‘Presidential News Summary,’ a collection of press clips presented to him by his staff, ‘is even more tightly controlled’ under Kelly, the person noted. Beyond what he views on cable news, which is more difficult for his staff to police, Trump sees even less of the alternative right-wing news outlets than he did when Priebus and outgoing press secretary Sean Spicer oversaw the Presidential News Summary, the source said.”
Politico: “When new White House chief of staff John Kelly huddled with senior staff on his first day at work, he outlined a key problem in President Donald Trump’s White House that he planned to fix: bad information getting into the president’s hands. Kelly told the staff that information needed to flow through him — whether on paper or in briefings — because the president would make better decisions if given good information.”
Trump’s aides fed him a folder of praise-filled news twice a day.
Vice News: “Twice a day since the beginning of the Trump administration, a special folder is prepared for the president. The first document is prepared around 9:30 a.m. and the follow-up, around 4:30 p.m. Former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and former Press Secretary Sean Spicer both wanted the privilege of delivering the 20-to-25-page packet to President Trump personally, White House sources say… Instead, the folders are filled with screenshots of positive cable news chyrons (those lower-third headlines and crawls), admiring tweets, transcripts of fawning TV interviews, praise-filled news stories, and sometimes just pictures of Trump on TV looking powerful.”
CNN: “In the wake of almost every event he holds, whether it be a rally, a bilateral press conference or a White House ceremony, Trump is presented with a packet of screen-shots showing how the television networks covered the event, two senior administration officials told CNNMoney. This enables him to see the chyrons—the headlines and captions on the lower third of the screen—that were being broadcast during the event.”
Despite their best efforts, Trump’s staff couldn’t control Trump’s cable news addiction.
Washington Examiner: “Beyond what he views on cable news, which is more difficult for his staff to police, Trump sees even less of the alternative right-wing news outlets than he did when Priebus and outgoing press secretary Sean Spicer oversaw the Presidential News Summary, the source said.”
CNN: “Trump is obsessed with cable TV news. He doesn’t just watch the shows, he tweets about them too—as he did earlier this week in the midst of a CNN interview with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut Democrat. Trump not only watches lots and lots of cable TV, he also cares—again, a lot—what the major figures on the airwaves think about him.”
There was an unofficial committee of Trump advisers and Congressional Republicans who sought to block Trump’s worst decisions.
Axios: “Here's one of the most intriguing — and consequential — theories circulating inside the White House: The generals, the New Yorkers and Republican congressional leaders see themselves as an unofficial committee to protect Trump and the nation from disaster. This loose alliance is informal.”
Congress sought to block Trump from removing Russia sanctions or taking further steps toward interfering in the Russia investigation.
CNN: “President Donald Trump signed into law Wednesday morning legislation that levies new sanctions against Russia and restricts Trump’s own ability to ease sanctions in place against Moscow. The bill is one of the first major pieces of legislation that was sent to Trump’s desk, and it represents a rebuke of the President by giving Congress new veto power to block him from removing Russia sanctions.”
Wall Street Journal: “Senate Republicans on Thursday moved to block every path President Donald Trump might try to use to fire and replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a step they worry would disrupt the independence of the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election… Sending the most powerful signal yet that Mr. Trump should back away from such action, the senators said they would try to thwart him through legislation, control of the calendar and the chamber’s parliamentary rules.”